World Cup Group Phase: Your Guide to the Permutations (Part 1)

1 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   June 22, 2010  |     15
Twohundredpercent will be bringing you, each morning this week, your handy guide to the permutations in each of the groups to finish that day. There really shouldn’t be any need for such articles, even if you can’t be bothered checking it yourself the commentators and pundits who are paid for this sort of thing should keep us up-to-date as we’re going along. But many of them seem to be incapable of a few simple sums and – even less excusable – some of them seem not even to know the rules. So in the light of so much misinformation kicking around about who has or hasn’t already qualified, and who still needs to do what, here we go, starting today with Groups A and B.

Note that, unlike recent European Championships which have used the head-to-head records ahead of goal difference to split teams level on points, the World Cup still uses goal difference first, then goals scored and only then – if required – head-to-head results. And finally, if none of that works, the drawing of lots.
Group A
Uruguay       2 1 1 0 3 0 +3 4
Mexico        2 1 1 0 3 1 +2 4
France        2 0 1 1 0 2 -2 1
South Africa  2 0 1 1 1 4 -3 1

Remaining games (Tuesday, 3pm): Mexico v Uruguay, France v South Africa

This one is reasonably straightforward and it’s already been well-publicised that France (or, for that matter, South Africa) are reliant on there being a positive result in the other match to stand any chance of progressing. A draw between Uruguay and Mexico is mutually convenient and would see both go through – with Uruguay as group winners. But while we’re not likely to see many risks being taken, I don’t see the draw as a foregone conclusion, Mexico in particular would like to win if the opportunity arises to put themselves at the top and avoid a (presumed) clash against Argentina in the last 16.

If one or other team does win that game, then either France or South Africa have a chance to catch the losers on four points by winning their own head-to-head. Both teams have a fair bit of goal difference to make up as well though – France would need a goal difference swing of four if it’s Mexico they’re trying to catch, or five if it’s Uruguay; for South Africa the figures are five or six respectively. And if we’re looking particularly at France, head-to-head records and goals scored do them no favours at present either. So if Mexico were to lose 1-0, then the minimum result France need is 4-1 (3-0 won’t do it); if Uruguay lose 1-0 then France need to win 4-0 or better. It’s all looking pretty unlikely, and even less likely for the hosts.

Drawing of lots potential: Not likely, but it could happen, either between France and Uruguay or South Africa and Mexico. In each case the sides would need to get the same results against their opponents as the other team concerned did in the last game (or something that has the equivalent effect), so a France 3-0 win and a Uruguay 2-0 defeat would do it, or SA to win 2-0 and Mexico lose 3-0.

Group B

Argentina       2 2 0 0 5 1 +4 6
South Korea     2 1 0 1 3 4 -1 3
Greece          2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 3
Nigeria         2 0 0 2 1 3 -2 0

Remaining games (Tuesday, 7:30pm): Nigeria v South Korea, Greece v Argentina

Lots to play for here, all teams are still in it and it’s one of those groups where someone could miss out despite having six points, or someone could yet squeak through with only three.

Argentina need need only avoid a 3-0 defeat to guarantee qualifying, and a point to guarantee going through as group winners. If they should lose to Greece then the latter would catch them on six points, and would also be joined by South Korea if they should beat Nigeria. Both Greece and South Korea need a goal difference swing of five to catch Argentina – if we assume the Argies manage to avoid that fate then there’s only a single spot available. So, if both Greece and South Korea win then whichever of them has the bigger winning margin gets through – realistically Greece would need it to be them as they’re behind on goals scored (by 1) and also lost the head-to-head game which would be the decider should they win, say, 2-1 while the Koreans won 1-0.

If either of these two sides gets a better result than the other then they of course go through; if both teams draw then South Korea again go through either on goals scored or head-to-head unless Greece’s draw involves at least two more goals per side than South Korea’s.

If, however, both these sides lose then Nigeria catch them and all three finish on three points. If this happens the equation becomes much simpler: Nigeria are guaranteed to have the best goal difference in that circumstance and would join Argentina in round two. Although this is┬áthe only set of results that suits Nigeria, it’s by no means implausible – if Argentina beat Greece, as they should, then Nigeria’s fate is in their own hands.

Drawing of lots potential: None, sorry. It can’t happen here.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • June 22, 2010 at 9:46 am

    algeria da best

    keep up the good work. Tomorrow’s post will be intresting. I think Uruguay and Mexico will go through. And Argentina and Greece too.

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